Linda Gach Ray has been carrying the torch for years.
This week, she made it official by running the Olympic flame down a stretch of Figueroa Street as the torch was relayed through Southern California on its way to the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, which begin Feb. 8.
Nominated by her business partner for her charitable work, her balance of family and a full-time job and her inspiration to others, Gach Ray is one of 11,500 Torchbearers to carry the flame more than 13,000 miles through 46 states.
"Even though [my portion is] two-tenths of a mile, I feel this amazing part of the fabric of international unity," said Gach Ray, adding that she was proud to represent the Jewish community.
As a lawyer she has volunteered for Bet Tzedek, and she now sits on the advisory board for youTHink, a program of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Los Angeles' Zimmer Children's Museum. Additionally, Gach Ray co-founded a branch of the California Special Olympics in honor of a dear friend who died at 33. She also volunteers for Stop Cancer and the Beverly Hills Education Foundation.
Growing up in the shadow of Rancho Park's Little League diamonds, she said she always wanted to play baseball. "But in my day, no one would have ever thought of the possibility of a little girl playing on a Little League team." Instead of breaking into women's baseball, Gach Ray broke into women's baseball ownership. Today, she and her business partner co-own the Provo Angels, a Utah-based minor league team affiliated with the Anaheim Angels.
A woman owning a team used to be more unusual than it is now. "[That's] been my pattern," she said. "When I became a lawyer in the 1970s, I was a lot more of a novelty than I am now."
To prepare for the run, the 5-foot-2 Gach Ray trained with her family's 140-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback named Spike, "who pulls me a little faster than I should go," she said. The training regimen was essential to Gach Ray's success as an official Torchbearer. "You don't want to drop that flame," said the mother of teenagers. "You don't want to run like a dork and embarrass your children."